The CrossFit Games Are Stupid
by Tai on February 28, 2011
When trying to explain the idea behind the CrossFit Games to someone who isn’t double-fisting frosty mugs of Kool-Aid, most often they stare back at you like a dog contemplating a frog in their water dish. This is not a new experience for anyone who’s tried to explain the basic concepts of CrossFit to someone unfamiliar with them, but when you add the idea of a competition they become particularly hesitant. One of the main arguments I’ve heard (and read in the comments of several blogs) is something to the effect of, “that’s stupid – who wants to go watch people compete in working out?”
Ok, let’s take a look at sports in general for a moment then.
Baseball - A guy on a little hill throws a ball toward another guy who tries to hit it with a stick. If he hits it, he runs like hell while a bunch of other guys chase the ball. If he doesn't hit it, another guy gets to try.
Football - A guy takes a squashed ball and throws it (or gives it) to another guy with the same color shirt. When that guy has it he runs like hell and a bunch of guys with different shirts try to knock him down and take his ball. If he runs far enough, he throws down the ball and dances like an idiot.
Basketball - Ball. Hoop. Make ball go in hoop. And bounce it. A lot.
They seem pretty stupid when you look at them this way, but this is what someone who knows nothing about these three sports might perceive when someone else tries to explain them. Now take a look at my simplified (though accurate) description each of these sports and try to answer for me one question: why? Why hit the ball with the stick and then run? Why knock down the guy with the squashed ball? Why make the ball go into the hoop? My answer to all that would be, “why not?”
CrossFit as a sport may be in its infancy, but it’s as viable (and perhaps more so) than any professional sport out there, and it’s anything but stupid. Instead of seeing who can hit a ball farther, run 40 yards faster, or hit more 3-pointers, we’re finding out who can best negotiate the widest variety of challenges pulled from an infinite pool of possibilities. It’s the same thing we do in our local CrossFit Affiliate every single day, and when we watch the CrossFit Games we get to see the best in the world bring a new level of incredible to this thing we love so much. In my opinion, that’s just f*cking cool.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Over the past few weeks, I have received an increasing number of questions about cooking oils. Given the apparent confusion and misinformation out there, I’ve constructed this list of facts, FYIs, and tidbits I consider absolutely crucial.
1. Oils with high omega-3 content (i.e.: hempseed oil, flax oil, walnut oil) are unsuitable for cooking. They should only be used to make raw dips and sauces, salad dressing, or to drizzle on food once it has been cooked and plated – and should be stored in the refrigerator. Ideally, these should already be purchased refrigerated.
2. Deprogram the “all unsaturated oils are healthful” slogan out of your head that has been drilled into the American public for decades.Some of these unsaturated plant oils offer large quantities of omega-6 fatty acids. Although omega-6 fatty acids are necessary (without them, our blood wouldn’t clot, so a paper cut could result in hours of bleeding), the average American currently consumes too much of them, which has significant implications from an inflammatory standpoint (high cellular inflammation is theorized to be a main culprit behind several chronic diseases). The worst omega-6 offenders? Corn and cottonseed oils. Not surprisingly, these oils are prominent in a lot of processed and fast food. Limit your intake of these foods and a significant portion of your excessive omega 6 is also slashed.
3. Make amends with coconut oil. It has been vilified for decades by government guidelines and federal health organizations, but there aresignificant amounts of clinical research which shows that its main fatty acid –=- lauric acid — helps maintain healthful cholesterol levels. Try it in savory recipes (like chili) or use it to make stovetop popcorn at home. Since coconut oil has a very high smoke point, its fatty acids can withstand high degrees of heat without oxidizing (once a fat oxidizes, its healthful benefits are gone).
4. Tread carefully with canola oil. The seed from which it is extracted — rapeseed — receives heavy pesticide treatment. Additionally, most canola oil is refined and undergoes a significant amount of high-heat processing, which worries me since it contains a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which we know do not do well under extreme heat (as explained in the first item of this post). The occassional tablespoon of canola oil in a baking recipe that serves 12 is no cause for concern, but I do not recommend it as a staple cooking oil.
5. Although we hear a lot about the importance of buying some produce organic, the same is true for all oils. Many pesticides are fat-soluble, which means they accumulate in a plant’s fatty acids and oils.
6. Light and air can quickly deteriorate oils’ healthful properties, particularly olive oil (which contains a high level of antioxidants). Leaving an opened bottle of olive oil on a counter for just a few minutes can have a detrimental effect on its antioxidant content. To minimize UV light damage, purchase olive oil in tin cans whenever possible.
7. A lot of commercial plant-based oils (mainly corn, sunflower, and safflower) undergo a heavy amount of processing, including deodorizing (to provide a neutral smell), bleaching, and anti-foaming agent treatment. For optimal health, these oils are better off consumed in an unrefined state. Keep in mind, though, that in an unrefined state, these oils can withstand much lower exposure to heat, and should be stored in the refrigerator. The deodorizing and bleaching processes are particularly worrisome as they expose these oils to temperatures well past their respective smoke points, thereby increasing the likelihood of the fatty acids undergoing oxidation and turning into harmful compounds. Although the deodorizing treatment does add antioxidants, these are not always the same ones originally found in the oil. Anti-foaming agents, meanwhile, are silicone-based compounds (in fact, one of the most common anti-foamers, polydimethysiloxane, is the main ingredient in Silly Putty).
My general rule for oil? Use ones extracted from foods which naturally contain a significant amount of oil. Not coincidentally, nut, seed, olive, and avocado oils are far better choices than corn, vegetable, or cottonseed oils.
8. I reported on this over three years ago, but find that it continues to be worth repeating: a lot of commercial olive oil is not 100% olive oil (but, rather, other oils with flavoring — read this article from The New Yorker for all the details). This, of course, has huge implications from a health standpoint since these oils don’t provide the same heart-healthy fatty acid profile and antioxidant content . To make sure you’re getting real olive oil, I suggest one of the following: purchase from these producers certified by the California Olive Oil Council, look for this International Olive Oil Council stamp of approval, or at the very least look for this Protected Destination of Origin symbol (which I learned about from my friend Robyn Webb), which guarantees that the olive oil you are buying was produced, processed, and bottled in the same estate (thereby eliminating the possibility of shady tampering).
One last important note: I recommend that the majority of your daily fat content come from whole foods that contain fats (i.e.: nuts, seeds, olives, fatty fish, coconut, unsweetened cocoa), as these foods deliver healthful oils along with bonus phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Congratulations – you are now a graduate of Cooking Oils 101… with honors!
Saturday, March 26, 2011
By Jenny Hope
Last updated at 9:10 AM on 24th February 2011
Last updated at 9:10 AM on 24th February 2011
As any city cyclist will know, riding your bike in heavy traffic can be, metaphorically speaking, a heartstopping experience.
But now research has found that it is literally one of the biggest triggers of heart attacks.
In a new sliding scale of everyday risks that prove the ‘final straw’ in bringing on a heart attack, spending time in traffic – as a driver, cyclist or commuter – tops the list because of factors including stress and exposure to pollution.
But of these, cyclists are in greatest danger because they are more heavily exposed to pollution and are subjecting themselves to another major heart attack trigger, exercise.
The study, which analysed 36 pieces of research, is the first time the ‘final straw’ risk factors for triggering heart attacks – rather than underlying causes of heart disease – have been quantified.
While some factors overlap, they were ranked by scientists in The Lancet medical journal online, after the proportion of total heart attacks caused by different triggers was calculated.
Traffic exposure was blamed for 7.4 per cent of heart attacks, followed by physical exertion with 6.2 per cent.
Overall air pollution triggered between 5 per cent and 7 per cent of heart attacks, while drinking alcohol or coffee accounted for 5 per cent.
Other risk factors included negative emotions (3.9 per cent), anger (3.1 per cent), eating a heavy meal (2.7 per cent), positive emotions (2.4 per cent) and sexual activity (2.2 per cent). Cocaine was to blame for 0.9 per cent of heart attacks, but this was because of limited exposure to the drug among the population.
On an individual basis, taking cocaine was shown to raise a person’s risk of having a heart attack 23-fold, according to the study, led by Dr Tim Nawrot, from Hasselt University in Belgium.
In comparison, air pollution led to a 5 per cent extra risk, but since far more people are exposed to traffic fumes and factory emissions than cocaine, air quality is a far more important population-wide threat.
Professor David Spiegelhalter, a risk expert from Cambridge University, said it was difficult to ‘disentangle’ the risk factors in the study for certain situations, such as driving or cycling to work in heavy traffic.
‘A lot of other factors are contributing to the overall risk; air pollution, stress, physical exertion, even anger which is another well-known trigger for a heart attack. It’s a complex mix,’ he added.
Judy O’Sullivan, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said the benefits of exercising outdoors outweighed the risks from air pollution for most individuals, and urged people not to be put off running, walking or cycling in towns and cities.
Dr Tim Chico, honorary consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘We know a lot about why people suffer heart attacks (for example smoking, high cholesterol, obesity) but not much about why they occur on a particular day and time.’
But he stressed: ‘The foundations of heart disease are laid down over many years.
‘If someone wants to avoid a heart attack they should focus on not smoking, exercising, eating a healthy diet and maintaining their ideal weight.’
Friday, March 25, 2011
By: Jen Wielgus
Have you hit a wall in your pursuit of fitness? I understand; I'd say I ran headlong into mine about two years ago.
And until I discovered CrossFit, I just kept beating my head against it.
I maintained my same monotonous cardio-abs-weights routine, day after day, until the old phrase "familiarity breeds contempt" became the story of my life. I dreaded going to the gym, but I forced myself to keep going because I wanted to stay fit and trim. Problem was, I wasn't getting any more fit or any more trim. I was completely stagnant, frustrated and bored. But I was reluctant (read: too afraid/ignorant/stubborn) to try something new.
Isn't that another old phrase? Something about the definition of insanity being, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
Well, CrossFit certainly seemed insane to me at first. Walk into a room full of strangers swinging kettlebells, heaving medicine balls up on a wall, squatting with huge barbells hoisted straight above their heads and whipping jumpropes around at warp speed, and any long-time treadmill junkie is bound to feel intimidated. Cue the soundtrack in my head: This does not look like something I'd be good at, so...see ya!
But I gave CrossFit a chance, and haven't looked back. Everything that was lacking in my old routine, CrossFit has in spades.
It has: variety (we do everything from Olympic weightlifting to burpees and box jumps); suspense and surprise (we never know what we're doing that day until we get there); limitless challenges (we increase our weight or try to improve our time as we get more advanced); community (classes are a great way to meet and compete against people of different ages and fitness levels); and yes, it has results (not to brag, but I've dropped two jeans sizes in the past three months.)
Every CrossFit workout feels like an adventure. I bet -- nay, I guarantee -- you can't say that about your cardio routine or your spinning or yoga class.
Maybe you've heard enough at this point and want to jump right in? You're wondering where you can go to start this adventure? My husband and I train at, and highly recommend, Wellness Solution Centers in Newtown (shout-out to resident experts Vinny and Eric) and Bucks Elite Fitness in Doylestown (shout-out to owner Dawn).
But no matter where you live, you can find a Cross Fit "box," as they're called, nearby. They'reeverywhere. Search the nationwide directory here.
...Or maybe you'd like some more information. Read on.
What exactly is CrossFit? It's a methodology -- a belief system you buy into, not a product you buy -- built on the theory that the best, most well-conditioned and versatile athletes don't specialize in any one skill. They're not just good at one thing; they're constantly working to improve their endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility...everything it takes to be a highly functioning human.
Here's a quote from the official CrossFit website: "Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist."
In the simplest, most basic terms, CrossFit aims to prepare you for anything.
That could be running a marathon. It could be wrestling on your school's varsity team. It could be playing softball in a co-ed rec league. It could be working as a police officer or fighting in the military. It could be competing in the CrossFit Games -- but that's at the way far end of the spectrum. How about just shoveling snow without keeling over? How about recovering from an injury or improving your posture? CrossFit can help anyone achieve any kind of goal -- physical or mental.
At our CrossFit classes, my husband and I work out alongside high school kids, young adults, senior citizens, folks who've fallen off the fitness wagon and folks who have, like me, become unwitting specialists in one area of fitness or another. Dawn at Bucks Elite Fitness even runs a CrossFit Kids program -- and boy, do I wish I'd been involved in something like that as a high school athlete. Everyone in the class does the WOD, or Workout of the Day, together. But each modifies it according to his/her fitness or experience level.
There are always new movements to learn, and sometimes, to fail at. But learning, and yes, even failing, keeps it interesting and makes it fun. (I'm saying that through clenched teeth, but I'm still saying it.)
Bottom line: If you're the type of person who tends to play it safe, falls easily into a routine and has reached a point in your pursuit of fitness where the comfort zone just isn't cutting it anymore, I'm here to tell you, CrossFit is the challenge you know you need. I'm like Natalie Portman in the movie "Garden State," passing her headphones to Zach Braff and assuring him The Shins will change his life. But instead of trying to sell you on indie rock (and being Hollywood cute), I'm pushing squats and cleans and handstand push-ups as a means of broadening your horizons and bursting your complacent little bubble. And I'd like to think I'm a little bit cuter now that I started on this program...
But seriously, CrossFit can lead to a whole new way of looking at life. You learn to feel the fear and do it anyway, and if that isn't a gateway to a better overall existence, I don't know what is.
So, that's it. You're informed, enlightened and motivated; now it's time to go try it out. Right now, please. An open mind is a terrible thing to waste.
That's an old phrase with a new spin. See? I'm making progress.
Photos courtesy of Eric Pirrone and Dawn Bancroft
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Sometimes all you need to get out of a cooking/eating slump is to discover a new flavor. It can take a dish you make all the tie taste different, so you'll never get bored even if you're repertoire isn't as thick as Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Epazote is a spice that some describe as 'medicinal' tasting and is very popular in Southern Mexican cooking. It has a bite, even a little citrus flavor, and if you can't find it you could probably use a combination of dried oregano, cilantro and lemon pepper.
4 medium Anaheim Peppers
1 lb ground turkey
1 small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 tbs Epazote
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
salt & pepper
2-5 tbs almond meal
2-3 tbs ghee, melted
Blister Anaheim peppers on the grill, and peel the skin off while still hot. It's murder on your hands but easier than letting them cool. Cut a slice in the middle and remove seeds
Sweat onions and bell peppers in a pan. Add turkey and brown, add tomato and spices and saute until fragrant. Stuff turkey mixture into peppers and place in a baking dish.
Top with almond meal drizzled with ghee, place under a broiler until almond meal begins to brown.